Toy Shopping Challenge at K-Mart, Sears, Lands’ End

I was tasked with a heavy burden this past weekend, an offer with strings attached.

Would I accept a $200 gift card from Sears that is usable at K-Mart, Sears and Lands’ End (and also, and, under the condition that I buy anything I want with it and then blog about it?

Sure, it sounds easy, except afterward I have to give away a $50 gift card to 2 Thinga-readers that is good at all of these stores.

I could hear my adoring readers shouting, “No! We don’t need money! We’re giving our kids a cardboard box like you always recommend.”

Photo of a bunch of toys on my sofa still in their original packaging.

I already hit K-Mart in previous weeks, loading on on a bunch of smaller items such as Matchbox cars and (more) Mega Bloks.

Oh, okay, you go right ahead with the cardboard. We still have our boxes, 3 huge ones in our living room in fact. But I’m not crazy. I bought my kids a bunch of toys.

The Big Idea behind the gift card is that it’s a bazillion times better than any other gift card because it’s good at three different retailers and those retailers’ websites. And, it avoids the whole why-the-heck-did-Aunt-Enda-think-we’d-like-this? problem. The recipient picks out his own gift(s).

Stop #1 We don’t have a Lands’ End local to us, so we browsed their website. Lands’ End is known as an awesome clothing shop, kids clothes included, so our toy hunt came up short. I was really tempted by a sled though.

Stop #2 Sears. We headed out Friday while our daughter was in school. Our Sears store doesn’t have a toy section (such is life living 5 hours from civilization — different priorities), but being December, they were stocking some toys.

Photo of the My First Kenmore stand mixer.

My First Kenmore Stand Mixer $10.99 — Sears (and K-Mart) have a new line of way-too-under-advertised kitchen and tool toys out this year that are very interesting, both wooden and plastic/electronic options. Seriously take a look. The wooden play kitchen gear rivals Melissa & Doug and the like.

The electronic kitchen appliances have some cool features, such as a microwave with a real rotating platter. Left to her own devices, my wife would have bought the whole lot of My First Kenmore appliances. I limited her to the one item missing for our daughter’s well-stocked kitchen — a stand mixer.

The toy has rotating beaters and sound effects, and the mixer can detach from its base for hand use. That’s about as realistic as you could want.

I used to be a no-electronics all-wood parent, but I got over that with the first wooden toy thrown (for fun) by my son. This will be our first electric kitchen item, but hey, for the life of me, I’ve never even seen a wooden stand mixer.

Photo of The Year Without a Santa Claus DVD.

The Year Without a Santa Claus DVD $12.99 — Hot damn!  I’ve never seen it sold at a store before. Year Without is the classic Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation TV special and the source of the classic Heatmiser song that my daughter loves, as covered by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

Year Without is G-rated, and it really earns that G for being tame. My easily-scared daughter got through it with flying colors.

Synopsis: Santa cancels Christmas because of nonbelievers. Two elves hunt for true believers in Southtown to cheer up Santa, but their baby reindeer is captured and sent to the pound. The mayor will release the reindeer if the elves make it snow. And thus we learn of the feud between Heat Miser and Snow Miser who control the weather. Meanwhile, Santa walks among us in plain clothes until he meets a little girl who believes.

Photo of a moose Colormate Cuddle Buddy throw blanket and thumbnails of the other animal designs.

Colormate Kids Cuddle Buddy $19.99 — Sweet! Just the day before, our daughter revealed in her letter to Santa that she wants to receive a reindeer costume. This 50″x40″ brown blanket has a Moose hood and moose hand cubbies at the corners. Wrap yourself in it and you’re a moose.

But what’s a moose to a 5-year-old? A reindeer, that’s what. If she gets wise, I’ll crack a Morris the Moose joke from her favorite book to smooth things over.

The Cuddle Buddy passes the machine-washable test. Some high profile competing products are not machine washable. The Cuddle Buddy also comes in a monkey, cat, lion, frog, cowboy, dragon, penguin and princess design.

Photo of the Joe Boxer frog-themes thermal pajamas.

The product photo at right has the colors all wrong, but correctly shows the style. My hastily repackaged after-worn photo at left shows how cute the frog design really is.

Joe Boxer frog print thermal underwear $8 for 2 — These went into service on Saturday for our annual viewing of the Eureka Truckers Christmas Convoy (think Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade, except with long-haul trucks and beeping horns in lieu of real music).

Photo of a big rig decorated with huge lite antlers on its cab, followed by galloping lit mechanical reindeer on an incline on the truck's flatbed, followed by a lit red sleigh filled with real people.

A beautiful, but cold sight. The truck cab is decorated as Rudolph's head. A full team of reindeer could be seen galloping on an incline on the flatbed, followed by a huge sleigh housing the real Santa Claus and a group of his personal friends waving to onlookers.

My daughter loved the parade and stayed warm. Thermal underwear doubles as great pajamas. It doesn’t (yay!) contain flame retardant chemicals legally mandated for loose-fitting children’s sleepware because — ta-da — thermal underwear isn’t loose-fitting.

Stop #3 K-Mart — I hit K-Mart with my parents who arrived for a weekend visit. I was dead set on an Little Tikes Fold Away Climber because it packs a lot of play (slide, basketball hoop, soccer goal, etc.) into a small foldable space. But it was on sale for an insanely low price ($80) and out-of-stock. I obtained a rain check to buy it later at the sale price (not with the gift card, although I could have).

Photo of the Grow to Pro Triple Hit Baseball pitcher.

Fisher Price Grow to Pro Triple Hit Baseball $22.99 — This one is for both my 5-year-old daughter and almost 2-year-old son (the toy is rated for 3-year-olds, so buyer beware).

It has three modes of play: a classic T-ball stand where the ball remains stationary, a pop fly where the ball shoots up vertically from the stand, and as a traditional pitcher that sends 3 balls toward the batter from up to 10 feet away.

Photo of the Little Tikes Monster Dirt Digger.

Little Tikes Monster Dirt Diggers $31.49 –  This is a jumbo plastic truck with dirt-digging scoop and dumping action for outdoor fun. K-Mart sells a metal Tonka truck, but in our foggy climate anything metal turns to rust.

I also liked the design of the cab, with a hand-hold in the roof for directing the vehicle around as you sit in your back yard.

Photo of the Aquadoodle package.

Aquadoodle $14.99 — It’s the classic pen-on-mat drawing toy where water is used as ink, and the ink evaporates within minutes. Okay, Aquadoodle is not that old, but I think you’ll agree it deserves classic status.

Photo of the Toss Across game box.

Electronic Toss-a-Cross $32.99 — I am so guilty. Just four months ago I compared new and old non-electronic versions of Toss-a-Cross. Going electronic is the last thing Thinga-readers expect from me. I didn’t even know there was an electronic version.

I was lured by a diagram on the box showing 7 ways other games that can be played in the electronic version, in addition to Tic-Tac-Toe.

What really got me was the sentence, “Play on the wall or on the floor!” I have a thing for wall games dating back to the 1970s Trapshoot game found in pizza parlors (I shot the video you’ll find on that linked site, by the way, but alas the rest of the site’s project has stalled).

Anyhow, making it a wall game sounds like a great space saving idea.

Photo of the Lite Brite cube.

Lite Brite Cube $18.99 — My daughter has been wanting a hand-held battery-operated Lite Brite since she first encountered one over the summer. I was delighted to discover they still make a plug-in model, and with four screens.

I would have settled for one screen, but four allows a kid to make and keep more designs for longer… and for friends or siblings to play at the same time.

Best of all, using the Lite Brite on a tabletop instead of your lap greatly reduces the chance of Lite Brite pegs getting lost. (K-Mart sells refills just in case.)

Photo of the red Mini Tri-bot.

Wowwee Robotics Mini Tri-bot $9.99 — When my parents read that their granddaughter wanted a wind-up robot (in her letter to Santa),  they looked in their local (not K-Mart) stores before heading to our house. Every robot they found in some way included guns.

Grandpa gets credit for spotting this peaceful robot at K-mart.

The Tri-bot is sold in a huge remote control version and this tiny 8″ version which goes in a straight line. He can turn, depending on the angle at which he hits an object. So, yeah, it’s precisely like a wind-up robot, except he walks a much longer distance and looks cooler when he does it (with three spinning wheels via 2 AAA batteries). His arms are also poseable and a yellow LED shines from his eyes. Not bad for $10.

Chicken Note: Over the summer, brick ‘n’ Mortar K-Marts began selling a sliceable wooden chicken playset that looks identical to my previously reviewed Chop Chop Chicken, but at half the price. And by identical I mean the only thing that looks different is the packaging.

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital — $1 donation made at the check-out counter.

Leftover: 33 cents.

What I Learned

Well, I mean besides a detailed knowledge of every toy at my Sears and K-Mart because I meticulously inspected every toy choice?

First I learned how much I forget. Last week I thought my shopping was mostly done, but I realized I missed some major must-have items like the Aquadoodle and Lite Brite — things we bought for our first child (and later donated) and things our first child wants, but skipped my mind.

Second, I learned just how much of a store like K-Mart I totally don’t see when I’m penny-pinching my own money. Things like the Triple Hit Baseball I’d never seen before because I skip that aisle. It’s packed with outdoor toys like push cars and three-wheel scooters — toys we already own. And I completely expected a ball pitcher to cost a lot more, so I never thought of researching one.

Third, I learned about rain checks — getting the advertised item at the steal-of-a-deal price even when sold out. Call me a newbie, but I’ve never rainchecked before.

Fourth, I totally need to get my relatives on the gift card bandwagon. Having one card that does Lands’ End clothing, Sears’ tools / electronics / clothes and K-Mart’s catch-all everything is a convenient, handy thing to have.

Here’s what a couple other bloggers picked out on their own shopping challenge:

Now enter the giveaway for a $50 gift card good at Sears, K-Mart and Lands’ End. The deadline is noon on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 Pacific Time.


9 Responses to “Toy Shopping Challenge at K-Mart, Sears, Lands’ End”

  1. Nancy says:

    My 6 year old has the frog Cuddle Blanket and he loves it, and my 3 year old has been coveting one but my in-laws, who bought the frog, haven’t been able to find one. So thank you for posting the link because now I can get the blue monkey for my little monkey.

    I’d like to hear your review of Lite Brite once your kids have gotten some use out of it. I debated getting it for my own kids but read some poor reviews – like most toys the quality is much worse than when we were kids and there were complaints about the pegs both being hard to put in, and falling out easily.

    Finally, we have the Triple Hit Baseball but have only used it as a tee – it was left outside and the pitching aspect doesn’t work anymore. It’s great for teaching a child how to aim for the ball though.

    December 14th, 2009 at 2:07 pm

  2. Dani says:

    I’m interested as well in seeing what you think about the Lite Brite. I saw one at our favorite online shopping source ( and picked one up for my son. I’m hoping it works well. He has some motor issues and I thought besides being fun it would be a good fine motor exercise.

    December 14th, 2009 at 3:09 pm

  3. Trish says:

    I’m going to have to get one of those cuddle buddies, looks great!

    December 14th, 2009 at 7:28 pm

  4. Amy says:

    You can get rainchecks at your grocery store too…

    Any ideas on how to spend a Kohls gift card? Penneys? They have been living in my pocket book for quite some time… (I should have tried to use the Penneys one when we got our pictures taken…) Maybe I am just too forgetful about having them…

    December 15th, 2009 at 5:40 am

  5. Tiffany says:

    Kohls gift card- today (Tues) & Wed they have all their fisher price and playskool toys on sale for 50-60% off. We’ve actually found some great stuff at Kohls- the toy section is very small, but especially at Christmas they get in some good sets and good toys. They other day they had the gigantic metal Tonka dump truck we got our son (now 3.5) for Christmas last year- he loves it- carries everything from trains to stuffed animals all around the house while it’s waiting for the other cars to “get gas” (they’re lined up all down the hallway). Kohls also has the Tag system by Leapfrog and Tag books, and some really great Geotrax sets- we’ve gotten most of our Geotrax from Kohls, actually- always when they’re doing these great sets (hey, 50% off is a fantastic deal when they’re full price at Target, Walmart, etc). Oh, and they have a bunch of the Cars little cars and stuff. Sorry, don’t know about the girl stuff- don’t pay attention to those- although they also have Crayola color wonder sets and playdough sets, good for any gender.

    December 15th, 2009 at 5:57 am

  6. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Warning about Kohl’s, they put steep discounts on toys, but then consider the “regular” price more expensive than even everyday prices anywhere else. Everytime I’ve researched prices of toys, Kohl’s discounted prices are never the lowest I can buy the toy at. Sometimes they get close — but that is after their highly vaulted “33% off” etc.

    December 15th, 2009 at 6:58 am

  7. reba says:

    we have that baseball toy and my son and his friends played with it all summer long. that aquadoodle is a lifesaver for my almost 2 year old who wants to draw like her brother and is constantly coloring ON MY SOFA…deep breath …. anyway id really like to try the electronic toss across seems like a good way to burn some winter break mom’s run out of ideas type energy

    December 16th, 2009 at 6:38 am

  8. Dallas says:

    I’ve been posting on my FB about some of my favorite toys from when I was a child in the 70s. Out of 5 different toys, the Lite Brite has gotten the most comments. I am glad to see some of the more classic toys are still around!

    I’m also glad you put the AquaDoodle on the list. My grandmother is wondering what to get my little one, and I (uncharacteristically) drew a blank. Since there’s a KMart near her home, I’ll suggest this one!

    I’m trying to limit the electronic toys given by relatives this year, (and we’re still too young for the Lite Brite, but maybe in another year or two), so I’m happy to find other places to buy wooden toys. Thanks so much.

    December 16th, 2009 at 12:24 pm

  9. LooneyJen says:

    We have that mixer from last Christmas and while it’s adorable and definitely a novel item, the quality has STUNK to high heaven. It’s been repaired three times and is headed for the junk heap unless I can figure out another way to jury rig (sp?) the stupid beater on again.

    On another note, here’s a wooden one (albeit expensive):

    December 17th, 2009 at 12:19 pm